2017 Archive

  • Naked and Bruised
  • Family History
  • A Quintar
  • Custom Building
  • Family Outing
  • Claro Walnut
  • San Francisco Yacht Club
  • Premier Guitar Feature
  • Cable Cars
  • The Ullapool Pool Challenge Team
  • Calculated Mistake
  • Latest Whisky
January: Naked and bruised

At a neighbour’s house over Christmas, I was introduced to a lady who burst out “Oh, I’ve been told about you, you make musical instruments, and you do it all in the nude!.” I brought Moira across to listen, and the lady went into chapter and verse about where, when and how I do this thing. I pointed out that splinters would be a problem, chisels scary, superglue positively dangerous, and also that it wasn’t true, but the lady would not be persuaded. Then a few days ago Moira and I were at a music business party, drink was drunk, and I woke next morning with a black eye.

I’m wondering if there is a connection.

March: Family History

Here is my Grandfather’s coal miner’s pick and a cup commemorating my great uncle William Johnson, one of the first Lib / Lab MPs, sponsored by the Miners Union.

Another ancestor - “Red Tom”, was one of the Merevale Poachers who were deported to Australia in 1829.

So I’m ok if ever I need a Visa.

April: A Quintar

That’s what the customer calls it anyway. It’s a mandolin scale, with an extra bass C string, on a small guitar styled body to manipulate the tone and physical balance. It took a lot of discussion and several wooden “mock ups” to get it to look right. I was very happy with the result, but even more pleased when I heard back from the client.

“I’ve never had an instrument as aesthetically pleasing as this one - I dared not hope for as warm and honeyed a sound as I can get from this, particularly on the lower strings. It glows.”

So that’s ok then.

Apart from the 5 strings and the overall size, the customer was intent on figured Walnut with blue lines, and the larger body was helped by adding a suitable bevel just where the right arm would catch the corner. There are many shapes and techniques which can be used for such a feature, I'm hoping to work my way through all of them, given enough time and “suitable” customers.

The neck is laminated with Mahogany, Rosewood and Walnut with blue lines to match everything else. The top is Sinker Redwood with Rosewood trim, a strange little thing but very sweet, and SO comfortable to hold.

It was a pleasure to build, not easy, but such a lovely size to handle and to have on the bench

April: Custom Building

With all these unusual instruments this month, this is a good chance to talk about “what we do”.

By far, most of the instruments we make are “standard models”, even if they do often go to very demanding, professional musicians. The designs have been tweaked and re-tweaked for over forty years, in collaboration with those same (now sometimes slightly ancient) professional players, and now with a whole new set of younger artists. We have standard guitar models, and other instruments, to suit everybody who aspires to a higher level of playing.

But I love a challenge - Martin Carthy says I’m “fearless”. Only with wood and metal, Martin. I’m terrified of my wife
A significant part of our work is “one off”, and sometimes it can be something very unusual. Each instrument needs a wooden mould to keep the body in shape while we work, and sometimes we modify that mould for a second version, or strengthen them if the design is repeated, but I never throw them away. I’ll try and remember to take another picture in about ten years’ time

April: Family Outing

Another bit of family history. A picture taken in 1927, I am not in the “Sharrabang”, so no comments thank you.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to show up at Ullapool in one of these? The journey might take a few extra days though, and that suitcase wouldn’t be enough for Moira

April: Claro Walnut

I’ve been buying wood again. Moira says I need help. I do, it’s very heavy stuff.

Half of a Claro walnut tree, grown in England and one year into it’s drying and seasoning. It is lovely timber, and I’m so pleased to be able to use home grown material.

July: San Francisco

Here is a picture taken from the dining room of the St Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco. Membership by invitation only. (no chance there, but as I turn into dust at a glimmer of sun or a breath of wind, and Moira gets sea sick when she steps in a puddle, that’s ok). We know how to slum it, a lovely place. I was a Sir, and Moira was a Madam. Still is.

We were guests of our private detective/journalist/ musician friend Julie Bergman who will no doubt feature here again. (She has a guitar on order.) Thank you Julie.

July: Premier Guitar feature

This was nice - there have been a few articles in USA publications featuring Fylde recently, and this time I’m honoured to be in very good company- Dana Bourgeois, Isaac Jang, Kevin Ryan, Kathy Wingert – and little ‘ole me, all get to expand our philosophy.

We agree on lots, disagree on some. I feel I never manage to explain myself properly in interviews, it seems ok at the time but then I realise I’ve left out something important and it’s too late. Premier do seem to have added about ten years to my age, maybe that explains it.

July: Cable Cars

Do not go to San Francisco without visiting the Cable Car Museum. It’s always my first stop, and Moira LOVES going there.

Be warned - the street map is not accurate, but you will meet lots of interesting people as you struggle up and down all the hills, trying to find it. We visited a very nice Whisky shop, desperate to buy water (how sad), and the little café opposite the entrance is enticingly weird.

November: The Ullapool Pool Challenge Team

Open for challenge matches from any other guitar festival pool team, worldwide, and inviting sponsorship from any decent brewery. (dark ale please, none of this modern gold rubbish). We are also looking for a supplier of matching team shirts. This picture is just some of the Ullapool first team, if we include the reserve team, management, fitness trainers, nutritionists, and all the groupies, we will need about thirty shirts. In a very wide variety of sizes.

November: Calculated mistake

It is getting a little worrying. A week or two ago, after a very hard day following a very hard week, I dialled a telephone number then sat flummoxed when nothing happened and I couldn’t work out what to do next, the telephone didn't make any sense to me. I had quite seriously dialled the number on my desk calculator. Moira was there. Oh, how we laughed. I take Moira everywhere I go, just in case. So far, she’s always brought me back home.

December: Latest Whisky

A lot of my friends and customers seem to think that I like Whisky, I’ve no idea why.

This is a small selection of those that have found their way to me recently, just one bottle at a time. A 25-year-old Caol Ila sent to me by young John Smith, which I would have in an intravenous drip if I could, but I’m not sure it would taste the same. The blue box is another Islay Malt from the first distillery to be built on Islay for 120 years - Kilchoman’s “Machir Bay”, which has all of the required peat and smoke. Then a very unusual 15 year Dewars “an intriguing step up from the Classic Blend”, given to me by a very well connected new customer, who also presented me with a 17 year old Deveron “Arctic Convoys”, in a splendid lacquered box. This is a very restricted bottling given only to the tiny number of the sailors who survived the wartime arctic convoys. Plus me.

Limited edition whiskys are shooting up in value at the moment, so I have probably just drunk my children’s inheritance, but I will give them the empty bottle and the box. They can dream of what might have been.

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